In my last post I sought to articulate how modern, American culture attempts to liberate women through the promotion of corporate success, physical beauty, and sexual promiscuity. While that movement has accomplished plenty of good things (i.e. women’s suffrage, women in the business world, women’s rights, etc.), it has also caused a form of oppression to arise against women with more traditional values.
I think it’s important to note that this kind of cultural/societal oppression goes back and forth. Women have been oppressed into the “traditional” mold and the “modern” mold. Sins have been committed on each side. Whenever either side gains momentum, they look down on those who disagree with them. My answer to this problem is not to take sides. I see that each side has their strengths and their weaknesses. The deep-seeded problem, however, is that both mentalities have the same fatal flaw. The flaw in both is that they are seeking self-satisfaction in their own accomplishments. They are enslaved to searching for significance in themselves. Their liberation can only come when they find significance outside of their achievements.
In view of all that, the question I am seeking to answer is this: How does the announcement of what Christ has done (the Gospel) liberate women from their cultural bondage?
I’d like to answer in three parts:
1. Christ Liberates Women from Self-Pity
Self-pity is really an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Its onset comes about as a result of an inability to reach perceived goals. I’ve identified that the woman with modern values is looking for corporate success, physical beauty, and sexual promiscuity. In her mind, she has created a level that she must reach in each of those categories to feel satisfied. The traditional woman does the same thing but with well-behaved children, a beautiful home with which to entertain guests, and a loving husband. We all do the same thing, just plug in your own particular ideals. We may think “If I can just get a job that I enjoy going to everyday, then I’ll be happy!” or “If I can just lose 20 more pounds, then I’ll finally like my body!” You get the picture.
Those of us who’ve done this for long enough realize that it’s a battle which cannot be won. Once we get that job we love going to, eventually we have days or weeks where we wish we could stay home or find another one. When we lose 20 pounds we still feel fat. We’ve tried every parenting trick in the book and still our kids seem overly defiant. It’s at that point when self-pity sinks in. We just don’t feel successful, beautiful, or talented even though we’ve done all we can. The problem is that we are looking for an abiding sense of satisfaction internally and peripherally.
The Gospel-saturated Christian is saved from this self-depleting mentality. We don’t have to seek satisfaction in personal achievements. Why would we when we know that “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). God gave up His greatest treasure, His only Son, so that He could have us. Through Jesus, God has given us eternal life, abundant life, freedom, work, family, inheritance, spiritual gifts, the fruit of the Spirit, righteousness, holiness, and a host of other blessings. If we hold on tight to this truth, there is never a need to feel inadequate since He has made us adequate! All our necessary achievements have been met by Christ. Whenever your head drops because you fail to achieve your self-made goals, think about all that Jesus has secured for you and He will become the “lifter of your head” (Ps. 3:3).
2. Christ Liberates Women from Self-Worth
When you read this title you may ask the question, “What’s wrong with self-worth? Isn’t that a good thing?” Let me define what I mean by “self-worth” before I talk about why women need liberation from it. When I say “self-worth” I mean that she finds her value in herself, namely her accomplishments. If she sets standards for herself and achieves them, then she feels like she’s worth something.
Let’s look at the modern woman and the traditional woman again. The modern woman tells herself, “Once I make CEO, then I’ll know I’m talented and hard-working!” Our traditional woman tells herself, “If I can just marry a handsome, hard-working man then I’ll know I’m loved!” Once again, each woman has identified a temporary object that is supposed to give them lasting satisfaction. They are asking those objects to bear a burden which they can’t possibly bear! Pause for a moment and plug your own object into that phrase. What are you waiting for or hoping for that you think will FINALLY make you happy?
Got it in your head? Now, allow me to burst your bubble: it won’t make you happy.
Do you know why this kind of discontentment exists? So that you will long for the LORD! God makes temporary things unsatisfying so that you will say that “as a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1). St. Augustine puts it wonderfully when he writes, “You have created us for Yourself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in You.”
Am I saying that women shouldn’t desire to be CEOs or to have good husbands? Nope. I’m saying that they need to find their satisfaction in the good news that Jesus has redeemed them by sheer grace. Jesus’ love and affection is the only thing that can give them the satisfaction which they long for. If they try to make a job or a man do that for them, they’ll be faced with disappointment after disappointment. And why would she do that when Christ is standing there saying, “I have loved you with an unbound love. Is that not enough?” If she comes to a place where Christ is enough, then she will be free from the need to find her worth in herself. She feels worthy because Christ loves her, not because of her accomplishments.
3. Christ Liberates Women from Selfishness
The reason that human societies decay is due mainly to selfishness. We humans (especially Americans) look at our resources, abilities, and talents as ways in which to advance ourselves. Let us consider, for the third and final time, our modern woman and our traditional woman. The modern woman looks at her promiscuous sexuality as a means for her to ultimately please herself, not to please another. And the traditional woman looks at having well-behaved children as a sense of status and accomplishment. Neither of these women are using their respective talents purely for the sake of others or to glorify God.
The reality is that the sin committed by each and every woman (man as well) has racked up a debt with God that they can never hope to repay. Each one has slighted God and hurt other people through their self-glorifying deeds. And Christ, in His mercy, has come, at infinite cost to Himself, and paid their debt. How can a woman moved by that kind of love try to boast about her own accomplishments? A woman who is profoundly struck by that good news rejoices with the psalmist declaring that “My soul makes its boast in the LORD” (Ps. 34:2). She who knows all that Christ has done for her is free from selfishness. She knows that she is nothing, but she also says in her heart that “Christ has regarded my helpless estate and hath shed His own blood for my soul” (from the hymn It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford).
Jesus Christ’s love is not some abstraction. It is made known in tangible action. He has accomplished so much for you, not because you are deserving, but because you are needy. You cannot add to it; “It is finished!” You need nothing else to be satisfied. Forget about sexual conquest, a respectable family, a high-paying job, and your looks. They will never make you truly joyful. Rejoice in the King who became poor, so that His peasants could become His royal court.
I pray with Paul in Ephesians 3:19 that you “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.” When you do, you will be free from every cultural bond.